Last Saturday morning, I woke up shortly after the sun had awakened and Huntley Meadows, one of the local wildlife refuges, beckoned. There was only one thing that made me think that maybe, just maybe, I should stay in bed. The sky was overcast and the weather casters predicted about two inches of rain for the weekend. I was pretty sure I wanted to just go out, go for a short hike, and take some pictures. There was, however, something weighing on my mind. It was grey. It was dull. What pictures were there to take in such a day as this? In short, while I knew what I wanted to do, how will the reality of the on and off drizzle mesh with my idea of taking pictures of birds in spring? My heart said go ahead. My head asked why? How so?
Sometimes the head wins out. Sometimes the heart flutters too much and like the sweet smell of sampaguitas, the feeling envelops you, and the world feels new. Is new. The dawn of a new day. A little muted, perhaps, but alive with possibilities.
And so it was that three hours was spent walking around in the on and off sprinkles from the sky. And sometimes, the sun decided to tease a little warmth into the cool May morning. The heart may be a lonely hunter at times, but then again, it can only be so. For in the ups and downs and ups in life, we find our way to life lived, a life lived well.
How so? The answer is simple. Make it so. And here are the pictures to prove it.
One look says it all.
To all the mothers in the world. May there be peace and love in your heart always. A love that knows no boundaries, in this life and the next.
After a slew of fairly warm days, I decided to take a walk at one of the local wildlife refuges in Northern Virginia. Huntley Meadows is one of my favorite places to take walks (with a camera, of course). There is a central wetland (fairly small) that hosts an abundant variety of birds (especially during the warm months of spring to fall). In the midst of a relatively warm winter, there have been days that observers reported a wide variety of birds in the refuge.
Yesterday (Saturday) was not one of those days where birds were plentiful and easy to find. I am sure that trained eyes would do better than I did, but it was barely above 20F when I left for the refuge (about ten miles away), after the sun had been up an hour. Surprisingly, there were a fair number of people walking around the park. And there were a fair number of disappointed photographers.
It was cold. And for the day (at least in the morning), the birds were few in number. Oh, there were ducks of several sorts and there was an osprey (or something like it) that flew over the boardwalk for a scant ten seconds. Aside from that, nothing. It was a cold day for this human. I suppose the birds don’t really want to go out and about when the wind is brisk and the sun barely peeking out of the clouds.
Oh well. There were still ducks.
Somehow, an eagle with a fish, being chased by another eagle, makes dull colors really interesting. Or not. These two juvenile bald eagles seem unaware of the bland coloration around them. There are (a lot of) fish in the water, meals to eat. Action. Lots of it. In bursts. Sometimes, you can wait for hours and see nothing but the bland brown color of rocks in a river. Then suddenly, an eagle dives for a fish, sometimes almost in front of you. Conowingo, in late November and December certainly is a place not lacking in excitement. If you wait.
One of the most interesting places to visit in the east coast of the United States is Bombay Hook National Wildlife Reserve. Is it by Delaware Bay and the reserve is a major stop in the Atlantic Flyway , the route that most birds take when they migrate northwards or southwards. This means that birds almost always make a stop at Bombay Hook during the spring and fall migration season. It makes it easier for non expert birders like myself to find birds to photograph.
Bombay Hook is a two hour drive from Northern Virginia. You head to Annapolis, Maryland and then cross the Bay Bridge towards the Eastern Shore. You proceed towards Wilmington, Delaware though you actually end up near Smyrna. Since you need to get to the reserve around sunrise, you generally have to leave at 4AM or a little earlier to get there on time. Every trip yields different photo opportunities. Just don’t come here in the summer. You will be eaten alive by mosquitoes, flies and other biting insects. Actually, if you have a thick skin and/or love insects (which birds apparently do), this could be the place to be in the summer. It is only a short drive from the Delaware Atlantic beaches. It is also a short drive from Wilmington, Delaware.
Bombay Hook has plenty of short walking trails that allow different views of the marshes and pools that dot the reserve. There are, of course, a lot of trees, bushes, flowers and other things that hide birds (and feed birds) quite well. My musings on Bombay Hook will be comprised of multiple postings. I only started visiting this wildlife reserve earlier this year. It will be a place that I will return to again and again.
The pictures below were taken on my first trip to Bombay Hook (late April 2017).
I haven’t been to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge since spring. I’d almost forgotten what a great place this suburban refuge is for spotting birds. Perhaps it is the massive amount of flies that are very adept at finding places to bite you during the summer time.
As I walked the trails at the refuge, a large buck with a large set of antlers jumped about fifteen feet beyond me. I have never seen anything that big so close before (at least not in the Northern Virginia suburbs) and I was stunned. I almost forgot that I had a camera with me as I struggle to see where it went. I saw it again, but instead of taking a picture, I just soaked in the experience of seeing something new. It scampered away quickly. Darn.
Fortunately, the bluebirds still sang. The woodpeckers still pecked. And a few birds that I’ve never spotted before were, surprisingly, within my camera’s view. I’ve been telling myself that even though a bird looks grey or brown, it may be something unfamiliar. When you are learning how to spot birds, one of the worst things to do is assume that if a bird looks like something you’ve seen before, you just ignore it. I am not very good at spotting birds, so imagine my surprise when I looked at the pictures of the small birds and saw a hermit thrush (above) and what I believe is a yellow rumped warbler.
And a white throated sparrow hiding behind leaves.
Of course, why not take pictures of a woodpecker and an Eastern Bluebird?
And fortunately, with the tide low, this ring billed gull was standing in the sand.